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Opinions of Thursday, 16 December 2004

Columnist: Alhassan, Amin Dr.

CPP Chairman Issah Mobilla?s Death Must Be Accounted For

The post-election news from Tamale cast a terrible blight on the peaceful and successful general polls in Ghana. The news that the Northern Regional Chairman of the CPP, Alhaji Issa Mobilla died mysteriously in the hands of the military at Tamale, and the reported rumor that a group in Tamale, associated with the death, has a hit-list to carry out as a way of punishing the people of Tamale for their electoral statement in the polls, is a very disquieting and disturbing development. Worse still, the initial silence of the government on the evolving terror in Tamale is reminiscent of the attitude of the NPP government during the events leading to the death of the Ya Na in March 2002.
According to reports from both the Ghana News Agency and JoyFM, Alhaji Issah Mobilla, who is also a local GPRTU Chairman was suspected of possessing arms. But when a search revealed nothing, the police went ahead to arrest him and subsequently upon the orders of the Northern Regional Security Committee, handed him over to the military. He died while in military custody. This has all the trappings of a politically motivated murder.
Following the death, the IGP Nana Owusu Nsiah is reported to have authorized a preliminary investigation into the circumstances leading to his death. Every peace-loving and law-abiding Ghanaian should commend the IGP for his response. However, The IGP can do more than just authorizing an investigation. We want him to publicly assure the nation that his officers have the situation in Tamale under control and prominent non-NPP elements in the city are safe from nightly visits of the group dishing out vigilante justice. We also want him to remind his officers that Tamale is no longer under a state of emergency and under no circumstance should the police hand over unarmed civilians to the military.
While his officers are at the investigation, we want the team to establish the basis of the reason for the Regional Security Committee?s order to the police to hand over civilian suspects to the military. Who was behind the decision and why?
We also want the Ghana Armed Forces to publicly account for how an unarmed civilian could die under the custody of the military. Sources close to the family of Alhaji Issah Mobilla allege that the corpse was visibly battered and there were signs of broken ribs and cuts all over the body. Against the backdrop of these preliminary details we believe that the government, with the approval of the family of Alhaji Issah Mobilla, should appoint an independent pathologist to ascertain the cause of death.
Given the association of this extra judicial killing with the anti-NPP electoral statement in Dagbon, and that Alhaji Issah Mobilla was allegedly instrumental in the impressive performance of the opposition NDC party in the Dagbon, the NPP government, and indeed, the northern leadership in the NPP has a lot to answer. How could this be allowed to happen? How could an unarmed civilian die in military custody? More so, how could an opposition politician be murdered by the military just when Ghanaians are celebrating the resilience of our national constitutional dispensation?
If there is one message from Dagbon that came out of the recent general elections, it is that when a government fails to deliver justice, the people will not forget when they go to the polls. Otherwise, how else can we explain the fact that the Vice President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, and the Minister of Works and Housing, Alhaji Mustapha Ali could not deliver their own home region to the party. In the post election denouement, one would have expected that a victorious NPP would be strategizing to open up the lines of communication with the people of Dagbon to find out ways and means of healing the wounds. Instead, what the people are seeing is the inauguration of ?Chapter Two? of another four years of life without the rule of law. We doubt if Dagbon and for that matter Ghana is ready to countenance any more extra judicial killings and administrative injustice under the watch of the NPP.
The people of Tamale are not so enthused by the decision of the police authorities to investigate the murder of Alhaji Issah Mobilla. The popular opinion in the city is that people see parallels with the way the police ended up with the sloppy and slapdash investigation of the murder of Ya Na and 40 others at Yendi in March 2002. So they see the initiation of the new police investigations as a gimmick meant to help calm the simmering tension in Tamale and to give the international community the fictitious image of law and order in progress.
Should the police fail this time round to deliver, Concerned Dagombas resident abroad have resolved to help initiate a Dagbon Crimes Documentation Center (DCDC) to record the stories of victims of injustice since March 2002, with the hope that the records will be used as prosecutorial evidence anytime and any day an open government is ready to let justice takes its course. We are also appealing to the Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) and Amnesty International to take particular interest in the developments in Dagbon.
The situation in Dagbon has all the consistency and characteristics of deliberate governmental inaction and complicity in crimes against an ethnic group. It also has the look of the genesis of a potentially destabilizing development that could roll out into other parts of the country. The situation is more ominous especially because certain agents in the NPP from the Northern Region are alleged to have been previously associated with the rebel activities leading to the destruction of Liberia. All Ghanaians should work together to ensure that Dagbon?s problems do not become the powder keg that could destabilize the country. May God Bless Ghana.

By Dr. Amin Alhassan
Assistant Professor of Communication
York University
Toronto, Canada

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